Would Fox News Hire Karl Rove to Replace Chris Wallace, Interview Democratic Presidential Candidates?

May 16th, 2015 8:43 PM

 “Welcome to Fox News Sunday. I’m your host, Karl Rove.”

Can you imagine the enraged outcry that would billow across the media and political landscape if in fact that sentence were reality? As the reality dawned that Chris Wallace, he the career journalist and son of a career journalist, had departed the show to co-host a Food Network cooking show with his  cook-book writing wife? And now Fox News had named as Wallace’s successor on the Fox Sunday morning newser the former Bush White House deputy chief of staff  Karl Rove? 

Then, not long afterward, when a new book raised a controversy over whether the George W. Bush Foundation was actually a glorified slush fund to benefit the former president’s presidential candidate brother Jeb and all those would be Bush 45 aides who needed a place to park their careers while awaiting the starting gun of the next Bush campaign? A new and controversial book written by a former aide to Hillary Clinton? And it was discovered after Rove had relentlessly grilled the ex-Clinton aide-turned author on Fox News Sunday that Rove didn’t reveal that oh-by-the-way he himself had given $75,000 big ones to his ex-boss’s suddenly controversial foundation?

Now imagine the Rovian damage control when the new Fox host issued the following statement as reported by CNN:

I made charitable donations to the Bush Foundation in support of the work they’re doing in support of traditional marriage between a man and a woman, as well as support for oil drilling in the Alaska wilderness, causes I care about deeply,” Rove said today in his first statement this morning.”I thought that my contributions were a matter of public record. However, in hindsight, I should have taken the extra step of personally disclosing my donations to my employer and to the viewers on air during the recent news stories about the Bush Foundation. I apologize.

Shortly afterwards, this statement was issued by Fox Chairman Roger Ailes: 

Karl made charitable donations to the foundation to support causes he cares about deeply and believed his contributions were a matter of public record.  He should have taken the extra step to notify us and our viewers during the recent news reports about the Bush Foundation. He’s admitted to an honest mistake and apologized for that omission. We stand behind him.

Another story from a few years earlier resurfaced, adding fuel to the fire. It seems that Politico had reported that Rove had a daily conference call with longtime friends who were running the prospective Jeb Bush presidential campaign. Reported Politico: It was….

….another morning in what may count as Washington’s longest-running conversation — a street-corner bull session between four old friends who suddenly find themselves standing once more at the busiest intersection of politics and media in Washington.

The Rove and Fox apologies weren’t good enough for DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz who issued her own statement saying she had urged her party’s elected officials to boycott Fox News Sunday until Rove was replaced as host. 

To try and tamp things down, Rove next sat down on the set of Fox and Friends with Elizabeth Hasselbeck, looked the camera straight in eye and did an on-air apology, saying this:

Now, I want to address some news you may have seen about me. Over the last several years, I have made substantial donations to dozens of charities, including the Bush Foundation. Those donations were a matter of public record. But I should have made additional disclosures on-air when we covered the foundation and I now believe directing personal donations to that foundation was a mistake. Even though I made them strictly to support work done to support traditional marriage, help families and develop American energy resources so our soldiers would not have to die in foreign countries, I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. I apologize to all of you for failing to do that. Elizabeth?

Say again. If the scenario above were true? Can you imagine the outcry? 

There would be a virtual stadium-sized roar of voices in the mainstream media bellowing that Rove be removed as the host of Fox News Sunday immediately. Now! Post-haste! Can you imagine the river of vitriol surging through the editorial offices of the New York Times and the Washington Post after swamping the sets of MSNBC and CNN not to mention the set of Jon Stewart’s show and the blogosphere?

Answer? Of course you can imagine this!

But if the situation were reversed? If in fact the above situation substituted ABC for Fox and ex-Clinton senior aide George Stephanopoulos - the Karl Rove of the Clinton presidency - for Mr. Rove? If the foundation were liberal Bill Clinton’s and it was said in a book written by an ex-Bush aide that said foundation was there to benefit Bill Clinton’s wife, the next Democratic nominee? And the favorite causes of liberal George Stephanopoulos were the two certifiably liberal-approved causes of AIDS and the environment? And George apologized with the otherwise identical apology used by the fictional Fox host Rove, with ABC issuing the identical statement as quoted above as the fictional Fox statement from Roger Ailes?

And if the real Politico story of the daily calls between ABC anchor Stephanopoulos and pals Rahm Emanuel (then the Obama White House chief of staff) and longtime Clinton operative James Carville had re-surfaced in the wake of the new controversy?  Then what would the reaction be?

Actually, we know the answer to the latter, very real-life set of actual facts. The reaction from liberal precincts has been variously some version of “no big deal” and “buzz off.” Followed by the let’s-move-along routine of planning George’s guests for the following Sunday’s edition of ABC’s This Week

But you won’t hear this challenged in the liberal media precisely because the media is filled with liberals - nominal journalists who are liberals first and journalists second. In fact, George Stephanopoulous is only one of the more prominent examples because of his Clinton ties. But by no means is he alone.

Utah Senator Mike Lee and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul have said they will deal with the Stephanopoulos problem by simply refusing to appear on ABC’s Stephanopoulos-hosted This Week. Good for them. Other Republican officials should follow their lead. Stephanopoulos has now “voluntarily” withdrawn from moderating Republican presidential debates. Not to be obvious but: duh!???  He shouldn’t have been moderating the last time - when he slyly injected the Democrats ‘war on women” meme into the debate by asking a puzzled Mitt Romney about non-existent GOP efforts to ban contraception.

The hard fact here is that the Stephanopoulos interview with Peter Schweizer was so egregiously hostile and over-the-line that it it should serve as a severance notice for his hosting duties at  This Week . A job he should never have had in the first place.  In fact, the on-air Stephanopoulos apology was an incredibly self-serving pity-party that really says “I’m so sorry for helping  those poor AIDS victims,  the little children and the environment. Please forgive my misguided attempts to help people.”  This, by the way, from the same guy captured in the documentary of the Clinton campaign coldly  threatening the person on the other end of the line by saying "I guarantee you, if you do this, you'll never work in Democratic politics again."

All by  themselves  these two moments  of the Schweizer interview and the self-serving apology  should earn  Stephanopoulos  reassignment to the commentators role and remove him from anchoring. 

Let’s recall that This Week in it’s original incarnation was called This Week With David Brinkley.  David Brinkley was a journalist’s journalist, the real thing. While even then there were accusations of liberal bias, Brinkley came closer than many of his anchor peers (think Walter Cronkite) in being seen as objective as could be reasonably expected. After serving in the army during World War II, Mr. Brinkley got a job as a reporter for United Press, eventually shifting to television. Working for NBC, along with fellow reporter Chet Huntley he began one of the first and most popular TV news shows as co-anchor of the now legendary Huntley-Brinkley Report. After Huntley retired and after various re-incarnations of the show it became the NBC Nightly News. In the way of the world Brinkley soured on his employer, left the network and in 1981 was hired at ABC. Brinkley’s task was to revamp the ABC Sunday news show, then called Issues and Answers. Revamped and renamed This Week With David Brinkley the show was off and running, a huge success with its famous host. When Brinkley retired in 1996 (he died in 2003) the show was handed to Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.

Eventually the baton was handed to Stephanopoulos. (Talk about irony. When Brinkley made his last election night appearance in 1996, the night Bill Clinton was re-elected, mistakenly thinking he was off the air Brinkley said to a colleague that he thought Clinton “a bore” and “the next four years will be filled with pretty words, and pretty music, and a lot of goddamn nonsense!”)

The instant difference in This Week, of course, was that George Stephanopoulos was no David Brinkley. He was, as mentioned, the Karl Rove of the Clinton White House. The real scandal was that ABC simply didn’t care. The decision was made to make Stephanopoulos an anchor, not a Rove-like or Sean Hannity-style liberal commentator. Now, the network is paying the price. Even the New York Times is asking:

If he can’t be trusted to be impartial in a debate, it’s hard to see how he will do any other political reporting in 2016.

Yes, but what about the late Tony Snow, some will argue. The predecessor of Chris Wallace as host of Fox News Sunday who departed Fox to be the press secretary for George W. Bush and who also served a brief stint as a speechwriter in the Bush 41 White House.  The fact is that Tony Snow - like a number of presidential press secretaries for presidents of both parties - was a professional journalist, not a political activist, before he took the press secretary’s job. Others along this line include but are not limited to Dwight Eisenhower’s Jim Hagerty (a reporter for the New York Times), JFK’s Pierre Salinger (a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and Collier’s magazine) and Gerald Ford’s Jerald ter Horst and Ron Nessen (respectively reporters for The Detroit News and NBC). 

Perhaps the closest example to Stephanopoulos is LBJ’s Bill Moyers, who was a longtime LBJ loyalist and staffer, ending his political career as White House press secretary. From there Moyers took a number of jobs in journalism, but his television jobs were as a CBS and NBC commentator, much as Karl Rove is today a commentator/analyst for Fox.He was never the anchor of either Face the Nation or Meet the Press, much less was he given the job of succeeding Walter Cronkite. Instead Moyers made a career as a host of his own commentary shows which brimmed with leftist political thought and were clearly identified as such.

He also did specials revolving around the work of mythologist Joseph Campbell and the US Constitution. In short, the problem for ABC is that the network refused to utilize Stephanopoulos in a Moyers or Rove-like commentary role but tried to turn him into a professional anchorman. A job for which, as the interview with Schweizer illustrates vividly, the ex-Clinton right hand man and career-long leftist activist is simply not credible.

It’s worth noting that in a book of memoirs written after his retirement David Brinkley said this of the role of the television anchorman (in his era they were men). The bold highlights are mine:

To survive, an anchor must convince some millions of people that he is at least modestly competent, that he has some idea of what he is talking about, and that he is playing straight with them, and that is about all.  He might comb his hair if he has any (and virtually all anchors have quite a lot) and wear a tie and keep his suits pressed. But people seem not to care too much whether or not he is attractive or well groomed, so long as he delivers the goods in a way they consider capable and honest.

And there it is. The heart of the matter from the creator of This Week himself in explaining why George Stephanopoulos and ABC - not to mention the larger liberal-run media world - are now in trouble.  Millions of Americans have become long convinced that George Stephanopoulos is decidedly not “playing straight with them” and that in delivering the goods that is the day’s news he is not “honest.”

If nothing else, the Stephanopoulos interview with Peter Schweizer serves as Exhibit A as to why the rise of Fox News - where the news anchors are the news anchors and the commentators are the commentators and never the twain shall meet. 

No one of any sense begrudges George Stephanopoulos his second career. Good for him, may he live long and prosper. But as that Rove analogy illustrates, were the real Karl Rove made a news anchor at Fox News instead of what he in fact is - a commentator, an opinion journalist - there would be hell to pay. There is hell to pay now for the ABC attempt to re-make a hard core liberal political activist with an agenda into a just-the-facts-m’am anchorman. 

And there should be. George Stephanopoulos has no more business anchoring ABC’s This Week and anchoring coverage of the 2016 campaign that features his old boss’s wife than Karl Rove would replacing Chris Wallace as the anchor of Fox News Sunday or anchoring Fox’s 2016 political coverage. Tellingly, Karl Rove certainly understands this and so does Fox, which is why the bright line between the network’s news anchors and opinion commentators.  No Republican in his right mind should spend a minute of their Sundaytime being grilled by an active operative of the Clintons. And when it comes to ABC News in the 2016 campaign, no Republican should ever be sitting down with this ABC anchor who, in reality, isn’t an anchor but a liberal activist. And for those who think this isn’t fair? They should ask themselves one question.

Would Hillary Clinton - or any other Democrat candidate - consent to be interviewed on Fox by Karl Rove? 

Enough said.